Sometimes, I am like a man lost. Certainly, when I walk around some of the less familiar parts of the island, I lose my bearings. I did my basic navigator training when I joined the shipping company, but that was navigation at sea. Now, I am lost in an unfamiliar sea and I don’t know where this journey will go. I really do not know, and yet, I have a smile on my face. I learned more about something I have always known, or at least, suspected about myself, but had never considered in respect of others. Yet, it is good, I hope.
I had taken myself up to the village again. There seemed to be more people around, about which I learned more later. Certainly there were enough that I had no difficulty sating my immediate needs. Suitably refreshed, I wandered into the tavern to find Gwyn in conversation with a demon; the apparently not late Padishar. I barely recognised him, having only once briefly glimpsed his demon form.
I learned that since the demise of Vedis, the villagers were being relocated from their temporary refuge in the demon caverns back to the village. Even Gwyn had been involved in this, leading the youngsters there through the roads and teaching them marching songs. I would have been there to, but the request from Valene came after I was asleep. Padishar had been helping and was hoping that the barman would pass on the message to the mysterious Lord Maric about them. Obviously he would have preferred to speak with said Maric, but had so far failed to find him. He left us soon after, disappearing into the shadows, as he is wont to do, unnervingly like the way Valene does.
We talked about the motivations of the demons in providing sanctuary to the people. It was a hard one to fathom. Having known Vedis, it was possible that it was altruistic, but there was always the possibility of ulterior motives, but the same could be said of Faermorn’s provision of sanctuary to the Jasper Cove refugees while the trees were destroying the castle, or even Saone’s provision more recently. All could be altruistic, but all could have an underlying motive for gaining support among the mortal populace.
Then came a question I had been expecting for some time. Gwyn asked about the blood, about the feeding. It was a reasonable question.
“It is like a hunger and a thirst at the same time,” I said, “but stronger than that. I suppose it must be a bit like an alcoholic and drink. That is why I make sure to feed as often I can, to keep that hunger at bay. It is said that it is the life essence that is in blood that keeps us… alive. In an odd sort of way, it is a bit like the energy I feel when I go into the sithen – a kind of life force. The act of feeding is pleasurable in its own right, quite apart from the sustenance, and is supposedly a pleasant experience for the person being fed upon. Not exactly lust, but similar.” Her response to that was a simple “Oh!” but then she looked at her wrist and asked if I would show her some time. That offer sent a shiver through me. I have always been so careful to make sure that I am well fed before we get intimate, not wanting the blood-lust to interfere with our lovemaking. I was torn between that desire, and the warnings I had been given about fae blood.
Before we could discuss it further, we were interrupted. The shadows merged and gave forth a winged figure – Nemaine, the Carrion Crow, creator of the Roads and Valene’s mother, bringing with her the foul stench of death. I placed myself between her and Gwyn. She had not offered me violence before, so I didn’t want to start anything unnecessarily, but just in case. I greeted her politely and asked what business she had with us.
She addressed me as her daughter’s Sigil and claimed she had no business, merely that she was strolling around and wished to greet her old friend, Nualla. She seemed to find it amusing that an old Cait was guarding a young Seelie woman. Nualla, from the way she was clawing Gwyn’s shoulder did not appear to be pleased to see her creator. Since Nemaine knew who I was and what I was, I reminded her that she knew what I was vowed to do and said that she could have words, and words only.
Gwyn mentioned something about a troll, which I did not understand, but clearly Nemaine did, as she joked about the troll not being so lippy with her next time. Nualla meanwhile still did not appear to have anything to say. Nemain claimed she did not want to eat either of us, because that would upset her daughter and she did not want this current body damaged. I opined that it would be a shame if it did get damaged and urged her to conclude her business. With that, she reached out and plucked a few strands of my hair before I was able to duck out of the way. Being warned by the lunge at me, Gwyn managed to avoid the grab at her hair. Before I could say anything though, she offered a few strands of her own, to avoid further attacks. I did not want to say why I felt this unwise, for fear of putting ideas into Nemaine’s mind. If, as Valene had told me, she was a goddess, then what use would she have for bits of hair, as surely she could achieve magical ends without it, however, I was extremely disquieted. Nemaine blew a kiss at Nualla and started to step backwards into the shadows. As she did so, Padishar reappeared and grabbed onto her, not trying to stop her, just seemingly determined to go wherever she went. I heard Nemaine call him a little liar before the shadows swallowed them both.
We both stood there for a moment, staring at the space where they had been. Gwyn finished her drink and said to Nualla that she had a dysfunctional family. I agreed with her, downed my rum and hugged her. She asked if I was going to call her an idiot or give her a lecture, but I declined. She knew well enough what she had done and the possible results. Her reckoning was that Nemaine was going to take something anyway, and she would rather give it up then risk a bald spot from having it ripped out. I had to allow that she was probably right.
I asked what she was going to say before we were interrupted and again, she shyly asked if I would show her what it was like to be fed upon. I was sorely tempted, but was able to resist, having fed very shortly before going to the tavern. I told her that I would like that very much, even if there was a risk of addiction, but would like to save that for a special occasion. It was possible, she said, that we were both a little addicted and suggested that maybe we should retire to some of the beds available in the village.
We decided to see what was upstairs at the tavern. There was only a small bed there, but we were sure we could manage. At least there wasn’t an upper bunk for me to bang my head on. I drew her close and told her how lucky I was to have her, and how glad I was that my friends, especially Valene, liked her. Gwyn jokingly asked if I would drop her if Valene hadn’t liked her. I told her of course not and joked about having to time share or something. However, I said, it didn’t seem to be an issue, given how often we had ended up curled up together, which wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t like each other.
Gwyn told me something I hadn’t known. “She told me to take care of you the other night, you know. I said, ‘Of course I will. She ran her fingers through my hair. “I can’t imagine not loving you. And I’m really glad she likes me.” She kissed me. “I really care about Val. She’s like… I don’t know, my big sister, my favourite aunt, the one you actually listen to. And she kissed me! Do you think she really likes me, like wants to kiss me likes me?” I blinked a couple of times at that question. I had noticed the kiss the previous evening, putting it down to Val’s demonstrative nature. Then my mind went back to early days in London, evenings in the café or in Fiendish Pleasures, and a girl named Jinx.
“Maybe,” I said. “She did have a girlfriend for a while back when I knew her in London. Jinx, I think the name was. So, I know she isn’t averse to women. Does that bother you? It doesn’t bother me.” She shrugged and told me about her friend Fenella, or Fen for short, who had kissed her once when they were both drunk, and how she had told this Fen that she would go gay for her in a heartbeat. The conversation had turned warmer, more intimate. Was there something more there? I kissed her and told her that if that was the sort of kissing she enjoyed, I would have to get Valene to kiss her some more, as it was my duty to see that she was pleasured at all times. She blushed and hesitated, asking if I would want to be there if she did. I asked if she would want me there. She blushed even deeper.
“You could hold my hand, maybe.” She laughed at herself. “Fuck, who am I? You must think I’m some kind of … I don’t know. It’s, wow. I think Val is beautiful, and I would really like to kiss her again. I think I would like it even better if you were there… Oh, my god. I am unbelievable.” I felt very close to her at that moment, gratified by her openness with me. I had long known that I had the capacity to love more than one person, but had never considered it in respect of others. Instead of jealousy, I just felt even more love. I reminded her that I had had an adventurous past. If this was something we all wanted to explore, then, so long as we were all in agreement, then what was the harm? She giggled and told me that the Seelie had told her that love was for everyone. It was just a little odd for her to talk about it and think about it. I assured her that everything was fine, that nothing would happen that we didn’t all feel comfortable with.
Serendipity must have been listening, for at that moment, the shadows coalesced and disgorged the very subject of our discussion, Valene. She looked better than she had last time we saw her, but she was hanging back as though not wanting to interrupt. I held my arm out for her to join us, saying that somebody’s ears must have been burning. Gwyn started to say that we had been talking about, but cut herself off, embarrassed. Valene came into the offered hug, moulding herself against me and playing gently with Gwyn’s hair. She wanted to know what we were talking about. There was an awkward moment, and then Gwyn blurted out that we were talking about kissing. I echoed that, adding that it was apparently something we liked doing, and demonstrated by kissing them both. Valene looked puzzled. Gwyn explained that Valene had kissed her the other day. I added that since it was something we all enjoyed, we should try it again. Valene was cautious, looking at me and then at Gwyn. Gwyn claimed that she felt awkward, and then, holding on to my hand, placed the other behind the back of Valene’s head and kissed her properly. I judged from their reaction that they both found it agreeable.
I held them both tightly. I felt a little bewildered, as this was not something I had foreseen or planned, and yet, holding the two of them, the two most precious people in my life, it felt right. Even so, the responsible part of me urged caution, if only for Gwyn’s sake. Both Valene and I had, shall we say, experience, but this was new to Gwyn.
I kissed them both again and spoke. “I guess this is kind of new for all of us, so I think we should take things real slow, and if anybody gets uncomfortable at any point, we can pause and take stock. You are both very precious to me, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.” Valene agreed, saying that we had an eternity to figure it out, and that she was just happy to be in our arms, stealing kisses. Gwyn told me to kiss her again, because we looked so happy when we did. I could not refuse her, commenting that I must be dreaming. To my surprise, and delight, they both responded with lines from Poe’s Dream Within a Dream. Last time I had thought of that poem was many months ago, back in Jasper Cove, trying to teach Aoibheann how to interpret the part about grains of sand. This could not be real, surely? If it was not, then none of us wanted to wake up. This moment, I did not ever want to end.
I suggested finding somewhere comfortable, so Valene took us back through the roads to her den, where we made ourselves a nest of blankets and pillows. For all the desire that had been ignited, by mutual consent, we chose to rest, curled up and wrapped up in each others’ arms, content to be together, bathing in the warmth of the love we had for one another. And so we passed the night, in blissful companionship.
As I said, these are new seas for me. The purely carnal aspect of being with more than one person was not new to me, nor, I doubt, was it new to Valene, but this was not about the carnal. Valene said that we had an eternity to figure it out. I hope this is true, but I hope it doesn’t take us that long.
* Paul Simon, of course…
Dream Withing a Dream
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Alan Poe